Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Most Holy Trinity

The mystery of the Trinity is celebrated liturgically and devotionally in the Church constantly. It is contained in that most profound prayer, the Sign of the Cross, which Lutherans are taught to pray upon waking, and when going to bed each day. This mystery is foundational to Christology, to the Paschal Mystery, to the Church's self understanding, to the sacraments, the scriptures, and to virtually every dimension of the Church's faith, life, and prayer.

This means that we could discuss the Trinity in manifold ways, and we should. It also might beg the question as to just why the Church needs a specific feast devoted to the Trinity. Indeed, the Church had no such feast for many centuries. It was the Carolingian era that brought about a number of developments which ultimatley led to the institution of a feast of the Holy Trinity in the latin Rite. It was Alcuin who, in the eighth century, wrote a Mass celebrating the Holy Trinity of Persons in the One Divine Essence. Alcuin was probably urged to do so by St. Boniface, the great evangelist of the German people. In 920, the bishop of Liege, Stephen, commissioned the writing of an Office for the Holy Trinity. The feast gained in popularity in many dioceses and countries, until finally the Roman Church, under John XXII, instituted it as a feast for the entire Latin Church in 1334.

This is just a little taste of the history involved in the rise of this great liturgical feast, yet there are a number of lessons we can draw from it. One is that this feast is a product of our Medieval heritage. Very common is the notion today that we ought to go back to the practice of the early Church. It is what I would call a crass ressourcement which ignores the richness and continuity of the Church's tradition. We see it in the thinking of many of the "liturgical experts" entrusted with the creation of the Novus Ordo in the 60s, men like Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, and his associates. We see it in the Lutherans who have been slavishly immitating such thinking ever since it became popular in the Roman Church a generation ago. Think of what such an approach would mean in this case. It would mean giving up the rich liturgical tradition of a feast which offers so much to the Church, doxologically and catechetically.

We needn't fear, however, merely that one day the antitraditionalist zeitgeist will lead to the end of the feast of the Holy Trinity. That is not really my concern. I suspect, in fact, that the traditionalist mindset, which is, thankfully, inherent in man, will preserve in the Church this feast. What I would suggest, though, is that we pause and take a look at how we have let our practice deteriorate over time.

For example, consider the great Athanasian Creed. The authoritative collection of Lutheran Symbolical writings, the Book of Concord, calls the Athanasian Creed one of the three "Ecumenical" creeds. It is true, as some are quick to point out, that this creed is not part of the tradition of the Eastern Church. Nonetheless, the Athanasian Creed far surpasses the value of the countless personal or local creeds that risen risen through the centuries. It unites Christians (who have come to know and love it) in a clear articulation of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. It would be helpful to remember that the Book of Concord also calls it a "Catholic" creed (it even uses, say it ain't so, a capital 'C'). The Athanasian, along with the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds, are designated, "Tria Symbola Catholica seu Oecumenica."

This creed is virtually nonexistent today in the modern Roman Rite. It exists there, but is hardly ever dusted off. Most of the lay people certainly never get any exposure to it. It is something for which we can be thankful, that in the Lutheran Church the Athanasian Creed forms part of the common worship on Trinity Sunday each year, even though a liturgical purist like me would point out that it really does not belong in the Mass. It's true home is in the Divine Office. The Divine Office itself has suffered greatly through the liturgical "developments" of the last century. I would call them 'erosions.' And with the Office, the Athanasian Creed has fallen off of its previously prominent place in the Church's prayer. Before 1911, the Latin Rite included the Athanasian Creed in its Office at the hour of Prime on not only Trinity Sunday, but indeed, every Sunday after Pentecost, as well as the Sundays after Epiphany.

Just consider how well our pastors, theologians, teachers, and all of our people, would know this creed if it were prayed that often. Its phrases and formulations would be on our minds, and we would find oursleves quoting it the way we tend to quote the Small Catechism.

For easy access, I give the reader the text of this creed below, with the challenge to pray it often, and even set it to memory. First you will see it in its traditional English version, and then in the Latin. To aid both prayer and learning, I have divided the creed into sixteen 'verses.' My recommendation: start praying it as part of your Sunday morning devotion, before going to mass.

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith.
Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

2. And the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity And Trinity in Unity,
Neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance.

3. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

4. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son
Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.

5. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal.
As there are not three Uncreated nor three
Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible.

6. So likewise the Father is almighty,
the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. and yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son
Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. and yet not three Lords, but one Lord.

7. For like as we are compelled by the Christian Verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the catholic religion to say, there be three Gods or three Lords.

8. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten,
The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created, but begotten,
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.

9. So there is one Father, not three Fathers, one Son, not three Sons, one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is before or after other, none is greater or less than another.
But the whole three Persons are coeternal
Together and coequal, so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

10. He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

11. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds;
And Man of the substance of His
mother, born in the world;

12. Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood;

13. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God.
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.

14. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead;
He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God
almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

15. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give an account of their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.

16. This is the Catholic faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

1. Quicumque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut teneat Catholicam fidem.
Quam nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit, absque dubio in aeternum peribit.

2. Fides autem Catholica haec est, ut unum Deum in Trinitatem in unitate veneremur.
Neque confundentes personas, neque substantiam seperantes.

3. Alia est enim persona Patris, alia Filii, alia Spiritus Sancti:
Sed Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti una est divinitas, aequalis Gloria, coaeterna maiestas.

4. Qualis Pater, talis Filius, talis Spiritus Sanctus.
Increatus Pater, increatus Filius, increatus Spiritus Sanctus.
Immensus Pater, immensus Filius, immensus Spiritus Sanctus.
Aeternus Pater, aeternus Filius, aeternus Spiritus Sanctus.

5. Et tamen non tres aeterni, ed aeternus.
Sicut non tres increati, nec tres
immensi, sed unus increatus, et unus immensus.

6. Similiter omnipotens Pater, omnipotens Filius, omnipotens Spiritus Sanctus.
Et tamen non tres omnipotens, sed unus omnipotens.
Ita Deus Pater, Deus Filius, Deus Spiritus Sanctus. et tamen non tres Dii, sed unus est Deus.
Ita Dominus Pater, Dominus Filius, Dominus Spiritus Sanctus. et tamen non tres Domini, sed unus est Dominus.

7. Quia, sicut singillatim unamquamque
personam Deum ac Dominum confiteri
christiana veritate compellimur, ita tres Deos aut Dominos dicere catholica religione prohibemur.

8. Pater a nullo est factus, nec creatus, nec genitus.
Filius a Patre solo est, non factus, nec creatus, sed genitus.
Spiritus Sanctus a Patre et Filio, non factus, nec creatus, nec genitus, sed procedens.

9. Unus ergo Pater, non tres Patres, unus Filius, non tres Filii, unus Spiritus Sanctus, Non tres Spiritus Sancti.
Et in hac Trinitate nihil prius aut posterius, nihil maius aut minus.
Sed totae tres personae coaeternae sibi sunt et coaequales. Ita ut per omnia, sicut iam supra dictum est, et unitas in Trinitate, et Trinitas in unitate Veneranda sit.

10. Qui vult ergo salvus esse, ita de Trinitate sentiat.
Sed necessarium est ad aeternam
salutem, ut incarnationem quoque Domini Nostri Iesu Christi fideliter credat.

11. Est ergo fides recta ut credamus et confiteamur, quia Dominus noster Iesus Christus, Dei Filius, Deus et homo est.
Deus est ex substantia Patris ante saecula genitus,
Et homo est es substantia matris in saeculo natus.

12. Perfectus Deus, perfectus homo, ex anima rationali et humana carne subsistens.
Aequalis Patri secundum divinitatem minor Patre secundum humanitatem.

13. Qui, licet Deus sit et homo, non duo tamen, sed unus est Christus.
Unus autem non conversione divinitatis in carnem, sed assumptione humanitatis in Deum.
Unus omnino, non confusione substantiae, sed unitate personae.

14. Nam sicut anima rationalis et caro unus est homo, ita Deus et homo unus est Christua.
Qui passus est pro salute nostra: descendit ad inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis.
Ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis, inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos.

15. Ad cuius adventum omnes homines
resurgere habent cum corporibus suis, et reddituri sunt de factis propriis rationem.
Et qui bona egerunt, ibunt in vitam aeternam, qui vero mala, in ignem aeternum.

16. Haec est fides Catholica, quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque crediterit, salvus esse non poterit.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Liturgical Stability: A Neglected Consideration

Father Larry Beane, in the pages of this web log, recently wrote something which bears repeating and reflection. Just what does the liturgical innovation, instability, even chaos, which prevails in so many ways in Christ's Church today, do to our children? Fr. Beane wrote, in part:

"Of course, it does have implications for future generations, as younger people no longer have the image of the hoary-headed patriarchs and matriarchs, fonts of wisdom, and examples of dignified Christian piety...It's no wonder the children and grandchildren of these folks have rejected the faith all together or are so rudderless as to be groping around aimlessly in the 'emerging movement' desperately seeking 'authenticity.'"

His words seized my attention, for they drew my thoughts from the particular problem of bizarre worship forms en vogue among radical feminist Catholics to the more general problem of what liturgical innovation can do to our children, both now and down the road, and conversely, to the benefits of traditional and stable liturgy for our children.

Experts in child development have repeatedly warned of the harm that instability can cause to a child, and of the benefits of that which is stable and reliable in a child's life. Children love to learn; even when they try to deny it, their brains love to learn, and so does their heart, especially after you show them what they can accomplish. This includes challenging things like vocabulary and music, as well as rubrics and good manners. They love stable forms and routines as an environment within which to accomplish this learning. Children think they like a lot of television, video games, and web surfing, yet we now know that their brains do not flourish in an environment in which they are bombarded with a heavy diet of electronic sensory images.

Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens, for example, in their book, The Minds of Boys, report the following disturbing data on p. 113.

"The average American child now spends 900 hours a year in school, but 1,023 hours a year watching TV.
In the average American home, the TV is on 6.7 hours per day.
By the time your son reaches eighteen, he'll have spent 22,000 hours watching TV, more than he spends in any other activity besides sleeping.
The number of videos and DVDs families rent every day is twice the number of books read.
By the age of sixteen, your son will have seen 200,000 acts of violence on television, 33,000 of them acts of murder.
One-fourth of children under two years old now have TVs in their bedrooms.
Two-thirds of preschool boys sit in front of screens for two or more hours per day-more than three times the hours they spend looking at books or being read to."

What does this do to children? One statistic that, in a sense, sums it up is given on page 112 of the same book: "In the April 2004 issue of Pediatrics, Dr. Christakis presented research that followed twenty six hundred children from birth to age seven and discovered that 'for every hour of television watched per day, the incidence of ADD and ADHD increased by 10 percent.'"

Conversely, Gurian and Stevens argue that there are great benefits to encouraging the development of vocabulary among children (130).

Yet "church growth" consultants have whole parishes and offices of church bureaucracy convinced that the way to cater to today's young and seeking churchgoer is to devise worship filled with electronic images, and lots of today's music, music of the most modern and irreverent sort, which contain banal and juvenile vocabulary. "Worship" of this sort is not designed to challenge or inspire. It will only serve to insult and ultimatley bore perhaps everyone but its creators and their egos.

Let me cite another expert, one of my favorite writers in this area lately, Dr. Meg Meeker. In her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Meeker's particular concern is the father-daughter relationship, yet in a sense much of what she argues has application for children in general, and parents and authorities in general. She makes the case that daughters long, even when they don't consciously realize or admit it, for examples and role models, and they want and need a reliable, rock solid, environment in which to grow spiritually and intellectually, to learn modesty and faith, and to be challenged in the most healthy ways. A girl will even learn how to worship from the male role models in her life, especially the most important one, her father. Meeker writes, from a purely clinical perspective, on the benefits (especially in chapter eight) of an ongoing religious example for children. In this regard, she compares religious example with the absence of religion in a child's life. Based on these arguments I would suggest that the type of religious example you give your child will have an enormous impact on his view of God. Our "church growth" experts and "emerging church" gurus would have our children act in church as if God were a fickle MTV watching buddy with his own my space account. If you think we are being really creative in this regard, think again. We are simply resurrecting the ancient Greek phenomenon of fashioning gods who look and act like us.

Children need to know they can rest securely in a reliable and predictable environment. Within the safe parameters of that environment, they will then imagine, and grow, and learn, and question, and flourish. Without it, they might be entertained, but they will ultimately find themselves troubled and unable to grow properly. This is illustrated nicely by one of my favorite passages in Proust's Swann's Way:

"At Combray, every day, in the late afternoon, long before the moment when I would have to go to bed and stay there, without sleeping, far away from my mother and grandmother, my bedroom again became the fixed and painful focus of my preoccupations. They had indeed hit upon the idea, to distract me on the evenings when they found me looking too unhappy, of giving me a magic lantern, which, while awaiting the dinner hour, they would set on top of my lamp; and, after the fashin of the first architects and master glaziers of the Gothic age, it replaced the opacity of the walls with impalpable iridescences, supernatural multicolored apparitions, where legends were depicted as in a wavering, momentary stained-glass window. But my sadness was only increased by this since the mere change in lighting destroyed the familiarity which my bedroom had acquired for me and which, exept for the torment of going to bed, had made it tolerable to me. Now I no longer recognized it and I was uneasy there, as in a room in some hotel or 'chalet' to which I had come for the first time straight from the railway train."

The Church needs to inculcate in her children good habits, and before I go on, let me emphasize that habit is a good thing; so, one more time, allow me to continue my habit of quoting Proust in his Swann's Way:

"Habit! That skillful but very slow housekeeper who begins by letting our mind suffer for weeks in a temporary arrangement; but whom we are nevertheless truly happy to discover, for without habit our mind, reduced to no more than its own resources, would be powerless to make a lodging habitable."

A home is a place in which we ought to feel most free, most ourselves, most able to find our identity. In this sense the liturgy of the Church is an invaluable setting in which to foster good habits, so that reverent worship becomes our very habit, that is to say, that in which we live and find our being.

For years now I have done odd things like make the sign of the cross when I worship, or kneel down at the consecration in the Mass. Kneeling is now done by the whole congregation at every Mass at the church I attend, thanks to the pastoral leadership of its current pastor. But for years kneeling was only practiced a few times a year, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Yet I knelt down anyway from the consecration through the Agnus Dei, week in and week out. It was a foreign thing, no doubt, for some of those who saw me do this. Nevertheless, I determined that the adults can handle the notion that there are Lutherans outside of this parish, and they don't all have the precisely same practices everywhere. One of the things I did not expect to learn, however, is that the children noticed me, and in the relationships I have been blessed to develop with some of them, in my Sunday School class, for example, they have shown themselves eager to learn and emulate. I have found, as a sobering reality, but also as a delight, that it is not only the hoary-headed senior members of Christ's Body that have an influence on the young. We all do. There is much responsibility, and much potential here, for modeling good manners and reverent worship. I pray we will seize it, and with God's help make good use of it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Kind of Liturgy

The modern feminization of the Church takes various forms, some of which are subtle, at least to those who may have grown used to what has become normal in the Novus Ordo. On the other hand, there are forms which still, hopefully, appall the average Christian set of eyes and ears. And it is good, forget for a moment that it is entertaining, it is indeed good, to remind ourselves of such things, to inform ourselves, and to expose these bizarre forms when we learn of them. Therefore, I commend to you the following video clip of a Mass of a "Call To Action" gathering.

Call to Action is an outfit within the Roman Catholic Church that promotes such things as the ordination of women. One of the thoughts that come to my mind as I ponder this Mass is the irony of those who claim I, a traditionalist Lutheran, am really a "Romanist." I am indeed a Catholic, and I am even Roman in the classic sense in which the Augustana itself employs the term. There are certain modern liturgical trends, however, which much better fit the term Romanist than I do. I dare say that the liturgical style of this Call To Action event is frightening to me. So to add irony to irony, perhaps I ought to admit that there is a certain sense in which I now even have a touch of Romophobia. To be sure, I am equally fearful of liturgical near kinsmen to this sort of Christianity, such as Renewal in MIssouri, or any number of "Ablaze" events.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Here in Fort Wayne we had the Indiana Primary elections today. This will sound bizarre to you, but I personally believe that since 1. voting is an exercise of authority and governance, and that 2. pastors of the Church ought not have their hands in both churchly and civil governance, and that 3. seminary is a time for leaving worldly ambitions aside, and preparing for the life of churchly vocation, that therefore, when I was in seminary, I thought it best to quit voting in political elections.

That is a moot point now, however, since I am not now in seminary; so I voted today. One thing that has not changed, however, is my conviction that theologians in general ought not be politically outspoken, which is not to say that they ought not speak out on political issues where they intersect with moral issues, even speaking out against specific men, or praising others. It is only to say that one's theological and spiritual vocation, one's effectiveness in his use of the Word, indeed, one's theology itself, can become unnecessarily tainted by political concerns, and especially by political partisanship. Therefore, for example, I refuse to give an answer when friends ask me to divulge my votes. Am I a supported of the RNC, and John McCain? Am I a supporter of Ron Paul? Am I a member of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos," and therefore a supporter of Hilary Clinton in the Primary? Am I one of the audacious hopefuls, who support Obama? I won't tell. That infuriates some of my "seminary type" friends who exuberantly proclaim that the only Christian way to vote is for Ron Paul.

In the case of some of them, I worry that their theological passion, if it ever existed, has been replaced by their political passion. Some seminarians are more willing to argue politics than to wrestle with the Word.

There are many manifestations of what I would call in general the abuse of the voting right. Another is the phenomenon of women who reportedly vote for Hilary Clinton simply because they feel they can identify with her as a woman. Some have even admitted that they vote for Clinton because their parents dislike Hilary, and they find some odd sort of attraction to voting for someone to spite someone else.

I would go so far as to say that the man who is uneducated, in the issues of the day, and also in the Liberal Arts in general, as well as in the teachings of the Church, ought not vote. He ought to educate and inform himself, and then cast his vote in all sobriety.